DAY 11: Sure you are authentic, but you suck.

Every year there is a new batch.  A theme to apply to corporate culture.  A new way of doing business.  A new mindset for self improvement.  New catchphrases to apply to damn near everything.  To be clear, I think I hate all of them.  EVERY SINGLE ONE.

The 90’s had “synergies”, the 2000’s had “hard chargers” and “strategic differentiation”.  Yes, I may have the dates wrong, and these may have been around forever, but you know what I mean.  I think it has to do with the stress of living in a cubicle or that we want people to think we are smarter so we use  smart words to confuse the rest of us.  “ME TALK SMARTERER THAN YOU!!!”  Yes, I hear that you  “holistically envisioned strategic paradigms”, and you’d like to “globally transition wireless potentialities,” while “authoritatively targeting sustainable value,” but could you go away, now.  (those 3 gems were generated by the CORPORATE BS GENERATOR)

The big one on my mind lately has been authenticity.  Brands and businesses are clamoring for authenticity, and to be clear I am cool with this in theory.  The issue though has to do with what authenticity IS, and with the notion that we can somehow just flip some authenticity switch.   Well a word of warning, you can be authentic, but maybe we don’t want what you’re authentic to.

Authenticity is in its purist form “is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures.”  Well at least that’s what the wikipedias say.  Really, I like this a lot.  Especially the “one’s own” part of it.  This is the part that corporate America forgot to read.  Everyone wants to be authentic until they realize that they suck.  What I mean is if a companies culture and ideals have flaws, are unethical, and are in general, not  things that we all think are positive, then being authentic isn’t doing them a bit of good.

But if you insert “Cool as hell culture of integrity that puts people first and shoots you straight” where “authenticity” goes, then I think you are on to something.  But, be sure, this isn’t a thing you can flip the switch on.  It has to be real, it has to be top down, and it has to be executed over a long period of time for a company or person to have what is considered “positive authenticity.”

A year or so ago my boss and I were having a conversation about likability and authenticity.  We were discussing why some people are likable and others aren’t and if this can be taught.  Telling someone to “be more likable,” is like telling a pregnant woman to “be a little less pregnant,” not happening.   I, in fact didn’t think it was possible, but this morning I made a short list of things that a person or company could do to become more “authentic/likable”.  Interestingly they are things we should all do as human beings.  Some of them seem repetitive, but I think all are important.

1.  Be moral
2.  Be honest in all your dealings with people
3.  Live with integrity (I love this definition: Integrity is a concept of CONSISTENCY of actions, values, methods, measures, principles, expectations, and outcomes.)
4.  Put others first.  Always.
5.  Shoot people straight.  Especially if it is hard.
6.  Do what you say you are going to do.
7.  Be willing to be wrong.  Most of the time.
8.  Listen to others (I struggle with this the most)
9.  Help others reach their goals
10.  Be transparent

The biggest word in this whole list to me is CONSISTENCY.  To be considered truly authentic, you have to do the above list over a long period of time, over and over and over.  Then  do it some more.  This is the hardest part, but it is the one that yields the truest results.

So instead of figuring out new ways to “competently reconceptualize enterprise-wide technology,” ask a coworker or friend what’s important to them.  Listen, contribute, do more, talk less.

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